The proposed 15 percent increase in the sewer rate received final approval at the June 17 meeting of the City of Portland Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Residents have spoken out on social media in opposition of the rate increase with questions about why it is needed. However, no one came to the council meeting to speak during the public recognition period. The Enterprise Budget which included the rate increase was passed unanimously.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has place the city under a total moratorium due to chronic overflow points - a manhole or lift station that overflows five or more times a year. Overflows occur due to the inflow and infiltration entering the sanitary sewer system.
Under the moratorium, the city can still install new taps and extend the sewer system if it can show it has removed two gallons of overflow for every new gallon added to the sanitary sewer system.
Utilities Director Bryan Price said, “The Sewer Plant is running at 80 percent capacity for loading; meaning the amount of sewer coming into the facility is at 80 percent of the plant’s design capability. By TDEC standards a community is to design a new facility when its current facility reaches 80 percent capacity.”
If the city doesn’t improve the system, that would allow the state to authorize the improvements, set sewer rates to pay for these improvements and restrict additional sewer taps. This could restrict the anticipated growth of the city.
Price said, “We’re having to do everything we’ve got to do. We are doing what we are mandated by the state to do to improve the system.”
The city has organized two phases to implement improvements at the sewer plant. Phase One included the influent pump station, adding rotary drums and a pista grit at the Head Works Station and electrical work at a total cost of $4 million. Phase Two includes adding addition filters after the water goes through the chlorine contact chamber, adding two more SBRs, and another rotary drum and pista grit at the Head Works Station and yard piping at a cost of $9 million.
Price said, “I’m very proud of the Sewer Collections Department and the waste water treatment plant for the improvements they have been doing in their departments since I’ve been here. The Sewer Plant is running better that it ever has. These guys have done a great job the same in the collections department. We’re finding leaks; we’re repairing leaks and identifying problems. They are out there on Portland Boulevard today with the jet vac truck identifying problems.”